The Search for Binary Supermassive Black Holes among Quasars with Offset Broad Lines Using the Very Long Baseline Array

Peter Breiding, Sarah Burke-Spolaor, Michael Eracleous, Tamara Bogdanović, T. Joseph W. Lazio, Jessie Runnoe, Steinn Sigurdsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In several previous studies, quasars exhibiting broad emission lines with ⪆1000 km s-1 velocity offsets with respect to the host galaxy rest frame have been discovered. One leading hypothesis for the origin of these velocity-offset broad lines is the dynamics of a binary supermassive black hole (SMBH). We present high-resolution radio imaging of 34 quasars showing these velocity-offset broad lines with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), aiming to find evidence for the putative binary SMBHs (such as dual radio cores), and testing the competing physical models. We detect exactly half of the target sample from our VLBA imaging, after implementing a 5σ detection limit. While we do not resolve double radio sources in any of the targets, we obtain limits on the instantaneous projected separations of a radio-emitting binary for all of the detected sources under the assumption that a binary still exists within our VLBA angular resolution limits. We also assess the likelihood that a radio-emitting companion SMBH exists outside of our angular resolution limits, but its radio luminosity is too weak to produce a detectable signal in the VLBA data. Additionally, we compare the precise sky positions afforded by these data to optical positions from both the SDSS and Gaia DR2 source catalogs. We find projected radio/optical separations on the order of ∼10 pc for three quasars. Finally, we explore how future multi-wavelength campaigns with optical, radio, and X-ray observatories can help discriminate further between the competing physical models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number37
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 10 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The Search for Binary Supermassive Black Holes among Quasars with Offset Broad Lines Using the Very Long Baseline Array'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this